The farrowing crate was designed to make sow management easier, allow higher stocking densities and reduce piglet mortality. Recently, concerns about sow welfare within farrowing crates have lead to a reappraisal of open farrowing systems. However, more freedom of movement for the sow places greater influence on the quality of maternal care, if piglet welfare is to be safeguarded. The aims of this study were to compare the behaviour of gilts housed in different farrowing systems and to determine any differences in behaviour, that may affect piglet survival.
After service, 38 LW x Landrace gilts (PIC, Abingdon, UK) were formed into groups of 3-5 and were assigned to either farrowing crates or a communal farrowing system. Each crate room housed six conventional crates with sow feeders, nipple drinkers and forward piglet creeps. Each pen room contained five individual strawed pens (2.7m x 1.9m) with a rectangular piglet creep at the rear, sloping walls along both sides and piglet and sow drinkers.